How many nails does it take to shoe a horse? 3,664. I will explain more of that later.
On our second day of the Arms and Armouries tour we traveled to Northhamptonshire to Boughton House, home of the Duke of Buccleuch. His family has been in this house since 1528. It was a beautiful sunny day but the temperature was a touch Noah’s ( Rhyming slang: Noahs Ark, park, parky=cold). We started with a guided tour of the house and the interior temperature was the same as the exterior. COLD! However this is possibly the best temperature for preserving things of great age.
One thing I found very interesting was the State Rooms. Back in the day if you visited Boughton you would have known how you stood with the family by how far along the row of rooms your progressed. If you came to this room, with its four poster bed, you were a close family friend. No one slept in this bed it was there simply to indicate you were a close friend and acceptable even in the bedroom.
We were given a nice warm lunch and then went to see the Armoury. But before the armory, Crispin Powell the archivist to the Duke of Buccleuch, had taken out some documents for us to see. Personally I found this fascinating. Among the documents on display was the budget for December 31 1739. And here I found “Horse Shoo” and the number of nails required for the Boughton horses was 3,664. Three thousand, six hundred and sixty four!! The must have had quite a few horses. And who counted all those nails?
Another item I found interesting was an 18th Century letter from soldier who had served in the horse guards as Kettle Drum and before that 11 years as Trumpet. I mentioned to Crispin that there would be nothing like this left from our era of easily deleted emails. He agreed and said that paperless technology was not good for archivists.
In the armoury there was a large collection of pistols and firearms and Dr. Paul Wilcox, who is an expert on the collection, spoke about the things of greatest interest. But for me the interest was in a display of Dress Harness of the Dragoon Officers from the mid 18th Century. Photos were taken through glass so please excuse the glare and reflections.
There was also a display of the harness for carriage horses. Look at the detail of decoration on the blinkers and the bit rings.
That evening we returned to London and went to the Tower of London. Can there be anything more enchanting than the Tower at night…..after all the tourists have gone. Only the ghosts and the guards are there.
We were greeted by a Yeoman Warder and taken to the Jewel House.
In peak tourist season the wait to get into the Jewel House is up to three hours. But we just waltzed in for our own private viewing. We could take our time and with guards there to answer any questions we might have, we could look at the most astonishing collection of crowns and ceremonial jewels in the world.
Then we had dinner in the White Tower in a large room that was originally William the Conquerors bedroom. Yes!
Following dinner our Yeoman Warder explained to us the Ceremony of the Keys. This nightly ritual takes place each and every night. We were told not to take photos, and to remain silent during the ceremony. He ushered us out into the cold dark night. Standing opposite the Traitors Gate we waited. Then we could hear the guards approaching, the clump, clump, clump of their boots on the cobblestones. They halted, standing in their grey winter coats and the traditional black bearskin headgear. We waited. Then accompanied by a Yeoman guard carrying a lantern ( lit with a candle) they passed us and went to close the gate at the entrance to the Tower. Then they started back. But just to the side of us another guard appeared. His gun was drawn. The others approached and he called out:” WHO GOES THERE?” “THE KING” came the reply. “WHICH KING?” “QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND.” With that the guard’s gun was lowered and they moved up onto the stairs that lead to the White Tower. “Long live the Queen!” and we all shouted “AMEN.” The clock struck 10 and taps were played by one of the guards. We had been told to be silent and reflect on all those who had given their lives in service. at this time. I thought of my Great Uncle Peter who had died as sea in the WW1. As the taps played a tear fell down my cheek.
I did not see Anne Boleyn’s ghost walking with her head under her arm but there is no doubt that the Tower has many ghosts. But what an experience. A night at the Tower of London, the Crown Jewels, dining in the White Tower and the Ceremony of the Keys. Magic!